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Yoga in Practice - How to Get the Most Out of Your Mind

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
Jul 18, 2008
When you mention mental health, most people envision behavior problems, treatment, and counseling. In Yoga, mental health is approached from a pro-active mindset. Optimum mental health is the gateway to learning, self-worth, emotional stability, and communication with others. Let's look at Yoga's approach to getting the most out of our minds.

In order to improve our mental functions, we must first see if the value of mental health is equal to, or greater than, physical health. Many people approach Yoga, and life, with a superficial viewpoint. Physical benefits and feats can be observed easily, but optimum mental performance quietly takes no credit.

If you speak to any elite athlete, he or she, will acknowledge the power of optimum mental function. You can visibly see a physical performance, but behind the scenes is a focused mind. With that said, a mind trained for a physical performance is not guaranteed to have fulfilling relationships or to cope with adversity.

A great deal of training is required in order to be productive in all areas of life. This is what makes Yoga such a unique system, because it contains a code of ethics, physical skills, and mental skills. If you look at the "Eight Limbed Path," as described by Maharishi Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, you will notice a road map to a trained mind.

Putting a code of ethics into practice is much more difficult than reading about it. This is why Yamas and Niyamas are the first two limbs. If you were in the middle of a silent prayer, and suddenly someone was rude to you, for no reason, would you be able to react rationally?

Most people can change from a peaceful attitude, to an angry mindset, within an instant. Survival instinct is the reason for this. When our ancestors gathered around a fire, in a cave, to stay warm, and a resident saber-toothed tiger suddenly attacked, there was a real need to instantly change mindsets.

Unfortunately, when the mind is challenged to react, logic does not always dictate our course of action. Yet, we still have Yamas and Niyamas to serve as our ethical guidelines. To put them into daily practice is a challenge, but it can be done.

To pursue the Eight Limbed Path a little bit further - Asana (Yoga postures) and Pranayama (Yogic breathing) are the next two limbs. In any part of the world, these are the most recognized aspects of Yoga because you can visibly see them.

You can gain much through physical self-mastery, and this alone may calm your mind, but as mentioned before, "A mind trained for a physical performance is not guaranteed to have fulfilling relationships or to cope with adversity."

Mental health goes hand-in-hand with emotional growth and stability. If you want to get the most out of your Yoga practice, and your mind, you cannot skip by the Eight Limbed Path.

Finally, the last four limbs are meditative, and structured for mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. This does not mean that you should avoid them, until you have mastered the first four limbs. You should work with all of the Eight Limbs, by gradually putting them into practice; however, this is more than reading about them.

The final four limbs are Pratyahara (control of your senses for the purpose of quieting the mind), Dharana (one-pointed concentration), Dhyana (devotion to the Divine), and Samadhi (union with the Divine). The Yogic path to self-mastery is a journey for life, but you will get the most out of your mind by taking the Eight Limbed Path.

Copyright 2008 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
About the Author
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. To receive Free Yoga videos, Podcasts, e-Books, reports, and articles about Yoga, please visit: http://www.yoga-teacher-training.org/member-offer.html
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